Top 10 Irrelevant Rock Institutions
It is generally accepted that Rock and Roll came into the mainstream with the success of the song Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954. Since then, many institutions have contributed to the traditions of Rock and Roll, only to have their importance wane in recent years. As styles and times change, these are the venues that still exist, but their impact on the art form has been greatly diminished.
Though technically not an institution, many agents have worked in his name since Rock began. But as Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne were dragged into court during the 80’s due to perceived suicidal content in their lyrics, Rock bands seemed to have stepped away from the Satanic imagery and messages. Though both acts were acquitted, the edge in Rock was dulled a bit. Strangely, Osbourne became a beloved figure on reality TV and the lead singer of Judas Priest was later praised for his strength, coming out as the first openly gay metal musician. As the 1990’s wore on, practically the only artist who was still touting the virtues of Lucifer that made any kind of dent in record sales was the Anti-Christ Superstar, Marilyn Manson. By the turn of century, Satan had hitched his wagon onto hundreds of tiny death metal bands that were not only miles removed from the mainstream, but sold, literally, only hundreds of albums instead of millions.
9. Soul Train Soul Train was THE show for Rhythm and Blues and Soul between about 1971 and 1995. Hosted by the
ultra-smooth Don Cornelius until 1993, every major artist in the genre made a stop at the Soul Train studios. Rock and R & B cross pollinate so often, that many early artists on the show are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But as the calendar turned on the millennium, guest hosts and sub-par hosts ground the train to a halt in 2006. Though technically on hiatus, the Soul Train name is occasionally dusted off and placed on some documentaries and specials. When Cornelius died in 2012, I thought the Soul Train phenomenon was officially over, but you can still go on officially sanctioned Soul Train luxury cruises.
8. myspace.com Launched in 2003, within 3 years it was the most visited website in the United States. Every single kid in the nation that owned a guitar set up a page for his “band.” A must have presence for any artist, as late as 2009 the site was generating a half a billion in revenue. But as quickly as bands set up shop, they were deactivating and suspending their accounts and moving onto other sites. Justin Timberlake, with a group of investors, bought myspace in 2011, hoping to reverse their fortunes, only to watch their Alexa rank slide all the way down to #258 as of April of 2013. In their defense, the new myspace does look pretty cool, just not cool enough to join.
7. Spin Magazine Founded in 1985, Spin was a fringe player in the magazine game until the 90’s, where its broad net of coverage coincided with the nation’s broadening taste and Spin became one of the most circulated music magazines in the world. At its peak, it stole the youth from Rolling Stone magazine’s base, covering stories and popular artists that other national magazines wouldn’t touch. Unfortunately, all magazines across the board began to lose subscribers as the internet took over as the place for cutting edge music news, especially for the young. Throughout the 2000’s, Spin tried, and failed, to regain market share and in 2012 they announced that they were going out of the printing game, instead focusing on online content only.
Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Rock history knows the story of Woodstock, the greatest music festival of peace and love in the history of the universe. The festival lasted from August 15th through August 18th of 1969 with legendary acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Who. Less well known was Woodstock 79 at Madison Square garden. Then there was the “forgotten Woodstock” in 1989, a spontaneous 20th anniversary celebration. And also the rain soaked “mudstock” with the peace and love of Metallica and Nine Inch Nails in 1994. Then finally, the peace and love of Korn, Limp Bizkit, and the Insane Clown Posse culminating in a fire that nearly burned down Rome, New York in '99. Notice a trend? Take the Woodstock name, slap it over the stage, then sell overpriced tickets. Promoters tried to recapture the spirit of the festival yet again in 2009 for the 40th anniversary, bringing back legendary acts from the original shows with 60 to 70 year old artists performing with younger, unemployed musicians substituting for legendary dead members. Look for similar cash grabs in 2014 and, of course, 2019.
5. Rolling Stone Magazine In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine not only counted down the Top 10, but the Top 500 songs in rock history. Too bad Rolling Stone hasn’t had their pulse on society since the late 70’s. Depending on your age, Rolling Stone is what your Dad (or Grandfather) reads while waiting for his prostate exam. 9 of their Top 10 Rock Songs came out between the fertile period of 1958 and 1973. Um, 1973 was 40 years ago. Their token ‘current’ hit Smells Like Teen Spirit, was released in 1991. Think I’m just singling out one type of list to make my point? Top 10 Albums, all before 1972, except for 1980’s London Calling album by the Clash. Top 10 Artists, all peaked in the 60’ or 70’s (or earlier). Top 10 Guitarists, the youngest one is Eddie Van Halen at the spry age of 58. Political articles are the only relevant item in the whole magazine, while the only artists that seemingly get good reviews today are Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan. But the magazine does do a nice job with obituaries when legends do die.
4. The Album Not vinyl, per se, which is making a nice little comeback, but the format of the album. Throughout the history of Rock, fans bought the album of their favorite artist. Granted 45’s existed and were popular for a time, and there was a singles chart, but the biggest rock artists moved truckloads of albums. But within the past 10 years or so, with the advent of iTunes, you could cherry pick your favorite songs for $.99 (now $1.29) and forget about buying an hours worth of music for $10, $15, or even $20. (And that doesn’t even include all of the illegal sites where you could download your songs for free.) Arguably, the peak of album sales was around 1980 with 50 million albums sold of AC/DC’s Back in Black. 2012’s top selling rock album was Mumford and Sons’ folksy Babel moving 1 ½ million units.
3. American Top 40 Between 1970 and 1988, there was a syndicated radio show hosted by Casey Kasem that counted down the top hits of the week on radio. As decided by Billboard Magazine, American Top 40 was a must hear for music fans across the nation. In 1988, Shadoe Stevens took over for Kasem over a contract dispute, and though a serviceable replacement, you couldn’t replace the legend that was Kasem. Within a few years, satellite radio got their foot in the door, and the alternative revolution kind of happened despite, not because, of radio. As true music fans flocked from the radio to other formats, the charts began to reflect the changes. American Top 40 continues today, hosted by the vanilla Ryan Seacrest, but the hits are purely pop and heavily censored rap. Kasem eventually returned to the American Top 40 stable, only to count down the hits of “yesterday” until 2009.
2. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and roll cackles with the energy of youth. As debauchery reaches across the decades, the body breaks down on even the most hardened of individuals. The Rock Hall is a nice, shiny tomb where rock is buried. The Rock Hall made a list of 660 songs that shaped rock, and somehow came up with a song from 1882 (Wabash Cannonball). And that in a nutshell is the problem with the Rock Hall, KISS is out, ABBA is in. You ask why? You get “none of your bees wax.” The election process to whom gets in is arbitrary and without transparency. Since its establishment in 1983, getting into the Rock Hall has less to do with your credentials, and more to do with backroom politics. Music insiders want their artists in the Hall because it gives them a bump is visibility, which in turn gives record sales a bump when nothing else is going on. Artists from Rod Stewart (when inducted with the Faces) to Axl Rose, to David Lee Roth have all shunned their enshrinements. That being said, you remember you and your friends planning your summer vacation around visiting the Rock Hall in Downtown Cleveland, Ohio, right? That’s what I thought.
From its inception in 1980, to about the year 2000, MTV was a force, both good and bad, in music and pop culture. Who can forget a young Sting yelling “I want my MTV” into the camera, and thousands of American kids running to their parents singing the same refrain. By the late 90’s, Alternative music was losing its allure and the corporate stooges, um, I mean, the powers that be, decided to start focusing on reality shows and scripted shows on their music station. In 2000, MTV was down to 8 hours of music a day, then 3 hours a day in 2008. MTV still exists, playing token videos during overnights and mornings (low ratings periods), but their primary purpose today is to babysit poor teenagers who can’t afford to get to the beach on spring break.
(I was searching for a sound file and came across this list I made for Top Tenz in April of 2013. I don't remember if: I didn't submit it, I submitted it and it was rejected, or it was accepted and they never published it. So here it is-- [Yeah, I know now Casey Kasem is dead and Kiss is now in the Rock Hall]-) .